A quiet has descended upon us, a quiet which no longer boasts the great bonfires of old over which the legendary men gathered to tell tales, but which belies the burning manifest instead in trifling tongues which still flicker at the peripheries, insignificant embers perhaps but which nevertheless are beyond the abilities of the guileless firemen at the fringes. The wars have returned to the foreign lands from whence was their genesis after the proximate visitations were smothered through damp piles of spurious money lain over still-warm bodies; the audacity of an experiment in continental boredom paving over the smoldering memory extinguishing the kindling.
Yes, the wars do continue, as they always have; though we no longer consider them. Why would we? They fester now in veiled silence, as they did in the ancient days of yore, to be experienced only by the afflicted, for we are tired of considering them. We have earned our right to our own quiet, or so we tell ourselves; but is it that we bear no responsibility for such a distant violence? For conflict far-flung is not easily quenched, especially that which is allowed to burn unimpeded, becoming clean and white-hot in its discipline and rage.
Yet how will we know if it, even if we would? For the afflicted have no voice; and in our age of information we have again become illiterate, returning to the grunts and pictographs of our cavemen ancestors.
Alas, these days there are none like the storied correspondents of old who were the griots telling us of the violence in far-flung places; they too are dead, put to death on the altar of convenience and the insipid notions of a totalitarian society which has forbidden the contemplation of the cause and meaning of war. So there is a quiet, filled instead with the shrillness of bewilderment for a caste who knows no understanding, having been robbed of their wars; but consumed now with an outrage of unknowing. Not that we covet the wars; but the banality and meaninglessness of now – a history-less cultureless existence which seeks to excise every ember from which might arise preference, the seed of disagreement and eventual conflict; that is what the quiet has furnished us.
But in our quietness we have not been content, have we? Festivals emptied of their significance to be filled with consumerism and comfort do not bring the joy of tribulations overcome; histories of epic conflicts penned to give permanence to the great horrors of old, sanded down and whitewashed over do not inspire. Humanity’s amazing story, the story of us, re-told as for children has not afforded us a sense of self and place and time; nor has it provided us an opportunity to know who we are or the curiosity to seek out in compassion and understanding and empathy the lost places where the fires still consume.
It is quiet where I sit, and outside the world I inhabit (though of which I am not a part) is silent; but this is a silence of knowing as little ones who have had no Christmas are asleep upon their mats, swatting away mosquitoes and gnats while listening to the sounds of their too-compressed lives, consequence of families out of control, of wars out of control and the desire for the safety in numbers which is the only defense of the poor. They have known the blaze, and would like to be free of it, as we have become free of it (at least for now). They too wish for the paralyzing weight of our quiet, at least for a season. But to change places…? Who could manage that feat – and if they did could they administer the quiet, bereft as they too would be after a time of the knowing which brings discernment and through that, peace?
Nevertheless, I would that we could change places, perhaps; those who do not know though believe they do with those who know and wish desperately to forget. Such an exchange would bring empathy I think; that rare emotion which is care bereft of pity and knowing absent hate. And empathy is certainly what the world needs today.